Former Church of St Pius X and attached campanile
- Heritage Category:
- Listed Building
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Statutory Address:
- Sefton Avenue, Widnes, Liverpool, WA8 9JY
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- Statutory Address:
- Sefton Avenue, Widnes, Liverpool, WA8 9JY
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Halton (Unitary Authority)
- Non Civil Parish
- National Grid Reference:
Former Roman-Catholic church with campanile, 1959, designed by Felix A Jones of Jones and Kelly of Dublin. The attached presbytery and church hall, also the low wall to the east end of the church, are not included in the listing.
Reasons for Designation
The former Roman Catholic Church of St Pius X, including the attached campanile, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* it is an architecturally bold example of a relatively small-scale mid-C20 Roman Catholic church;
* the church and campanile have a well-executed overall design, to create a successful stripped-back and free interpretation of a traditional architectural style;
* internally the main worship space demonstrates an impressive simplicity and is unified through the dramatic full-height pointed arches to the nave which are echoed in the side windows, niches for the altars and the entrances to the confessionals;
* FA Jones was part of Jones and Kelly, a prominent Irish architectural firm responsible for several ecclesiastical buildings in the C20; this church is one the few identified examples of the firm’s work in England.
During the 1950s an early-C20 suburban house and adjoining land was bought by the Catholic Archdiocese of Liverpool as the site for a new church. The Roman Catholic Church of St Pius X was designed by Felix A Jones of Jones and Kelly of Dublin and sited within the eastern part of the site. The church opened in 1959 as an offshoot of the Church of St Bede, Widnes (Cheshire). The house was retained and used as the presbytery, and the former garage attached to the north was converted for use as a church hall and extended to provide toilet facilities.
Following The Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican in the early 1960s there was some internal re-ordering including bringing forward the High Altar, removing the communion rails, dismantling the original pulpit and reusing the stone-rubble cladding in other locations within the church. In 1979 an inspection revealed issues with spreading within the brick arches and this was addressed by internal reinforcement. A report in 1987 noted the completion of the arch repairs; the same report noted that some of the parquet floor blocks had lifted due to loss of adhesion. The church closed in 2015 and internal features including the seating and Stations of the Cross were removed.
Felix A Jones worked for the firm Jones and Kelly, first formed in 1919 by his father, Alfred Edwin Jones, and Stephen Stanislaus Kelly. The firm was appointed to design St Pius X on the strength of their work between 1957 and 1958 at the Church of St Patrick, Newton-le-Willows (St Helens, Merseyside), which was designed in a Romanesque style.
Former Roman-Catholic church with campanile, 1959, designed by Felix A Jones of Jones and Kelly of Dublin. The attached presbytery and church hall are not included in the listing.
MATERIALS: the body of the church and the campanile is built in yellow brick, with concrete and stone detailing. The church has a pitched tile roof.
PLAN: the church has a rectangular footprint on an east-west alignment with, unusually, the nave to the east and chancel to the west. Attached to the south-west is a campanile above a single-storey flat-roof range.
EXTERIOR: the church is a single-storey gable-end building with a pitched roof with swept eaves, and cross finials over the east and west gable ends. The east gable-end faces onto Sefton Avenue and contains a central main entrance with double doors flanked by stained-glass windows and limestone-rubble cladding, set within a concrete frame which forms a pediment about the doors. There is a blue-mosaic threshold in front of the entrance, and over the pediment are three multi-coloured mosaic shields. Above is a large five-light, straight-sided, concrete-framed, triangular-headed window with concrete mullions forming five lights. The central entrance is flanked to either side by a small concrete-framed single-light window and a large full-height flat pilaster decorated with projecting bricks set in a diamond shape. Set into the right pilaster is the building's foundation stone. The north and south elevations are divided into seven bays by narrow inward-curving buttresses. Most of the bays contain a large pointed-arched window with a concrete sill. The top of the west gable end is blind and can be seen above a single-storey flat-roof range that wraps around the west end of the church; this range is lit by single-light windows.
A slender, 21m tall campanile rises from the centre of the flat-roof rear range and is angled on a slightly different alignment to the church. On each side of the tower are concrete-framed belfry louvres. Originally the campanile was decorated by tall metal crosses; they were removed at an unknown date and at around the same time steel restraint straps were fitted to every joint in the concrete framed apertures to address a concrete spalling problem.
INTERIOR: the church is entered through the east end into a lobby. To the right is a pair of metal gates, with elongated hexagonal frames containing coloured glass decorated with a cross motif that partition off the former baptistery (later a small shop). To the left is a staircase leading up to the choir gallery. A set of doors within a glazed-timber screen leads into the nave. The nave is a large open space divided into six bays by full-height, stack-bonded-brick pointed arches springing from the parquet floor and with single timber bands attached to the top of the arch. The painted plaster ceiling is contrasted by the ribs of these arches and also the exposed-brick window bays. Either side of the nave’s west end are two confessional rooms; one of which has been converted into a store; the confessional bays and overlights to the doors follow the pointed-arch motif seen in the nave. The chancel is located at the west end and is illuminated by side windows. It has a central sanctuary defined by a pointed arch within which the High Altar stands on a raised marble and parquet-floor platform. Flanking the sanctuary are side altars recessed within pointed-arched niches. The altars, pulpit, font and lecterns are clad in a combination of mosaic, timber, marble and limestone rubble. All of the pews and the 14 Stations of the Cross have been removed. The stained-glass windows have a common motif of a ruby cross on a fading blue and yellow background. Some of the panes have been replaced, particularly on the south side of the nave. A door in the south-west corner of the church leads into a corridor flanked by service rooms, with square roof lights and two large concrete ceiling beams that support the campanile above.
Jones and Kelly, accessed Monday 23 April 2018 from https://www.dia.ie/architects/view/2841/JONES&KELLY
St Pius X Widnes Taking Stock report, accessed Monday 23 April 2018 from http://taking-stock.org.uk/Home/Dioceses/Archdiocese-of-Liverpool/Widnes-St-Pius-X
Spencer, K, St Pius X, Widnes, Cheshire, March 2018
This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.
The listed building is shown coloured blue on the attached map. Pursuant to s1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) structures attached to or within the curtilage of the listed building but not coloured blue on the map, are not to be treated as part of the listed building for the purposes of the Act. However, any works to these structures which have the potential to affect the character of the listed building as a building of special architectural or historic interest may still require Listed Building Consent (LBC) and this is a matter for the Local Planning Authority (LPA) to determine.
End of official listing